Sunday’s races for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda were significantly more chaotic than Saturday’s, as big crashes took out several cars in both races and several heavy hitters encountered trouble.
In the end, each series saw a driver survive the carnage to complete a weekend sweep. Reports for both races are below.
INDY LIGHTS: KAISER SWEEPS AS TITLE RIVALS FALTER
Kyle Kaiser had been the model of consistency during the 2017 Indy Lights campaign, but admittedly felt like he needed more race wins to build momentum heading into the season’s home stretch. And that’s exactly what happened, as Kaiser won Race 2 on Sunday to back up his Race 1 victory on Saturday, completing a sweep of the weekend at Toronto.
In Victory Lane, Kaiser revealed that he had high expectations ahead of the weekend, but was still beside himself with sweeping both races. “I knew this would be a good weekend for us because the team has always had a good setup here – Spencer won both races two years ago. But it’s really been a dream weekend – I’ve never had a double win weekend before. Actually, I can’t believe it,” Kaiser quipped afterward.
However, Sunday’s outing was not nearly as straightforward as Saturday’s. Colton Herta led from the pole to start race 2, with Kaiser going three-wide with Santi Urrutia and Nico Jamin entering turn one. Jamin, on the outside, was the odd man out and got pushed into the outside wall on corner exit. Shelby Blackstock then rear-ended Jamin and went up and over the right side of Jamin’s car, resulting in an immediate full course caution. Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards also were collected, with Jamin, Blackstock, and Alberico all falling out.
A lap 7 restart saw Herta lead Kaiser while Urrutia battled Aaron Telitz and Zachary Claman De Melo for third. Urrutia’s day would soon come to an end, though, as his car rolled to a stop on the front straightaway on lap 12 with mechanical issues, forcing a second full course caution.
Herta again kept Kaiser at bay on the restart and seemed poised to claim his third victory of the year. But, a damaged rear suspension that surfaced early in the race came back to bite Herta, as it finally broke as he was venturing through turn 6 on lap 26. He dropped out on the spot and was credited with 10th.
Herta’s problems left Kaiser all alone out front. Kaiser described afterward that he was content riding in second, with the knowledge that he would score good points be in position to capitalize on any mistakes.
“I know it sounds weird, but I was OK with the points for second,” Kaiser revealed. “But I saw Colton getting close to the wall a couple times and I thought if he made a mistake, I would be ready. I’m usually on the bad end of luck but this year I was rewarded. I am definitely more confident and more relaxed heading into Mid-Ohio, having a little bit of a cushion in the championship.”
Behind him, Telitz outdueled Claman de Melo in the battle for second, while Claman de Melo hung on for third, his second podium of the weekend. Juan Piedrahita was fourth while Matheus Leist rebounded from early trouble to finish fifth. Leist, running inside the top ten at the time, gently nosed into the turn 3 tire barrier on lap 10, but was able to quickly rejoin the fight without losing much time.
Kaiser now leads Leist by 51 points leaving Toronto, with Herta still in third. Claman de Melo has climbed all the way up to fourth, while Telitz sits fifth. Coverage of Indy Lights from Toronto airs on NBCSN Monday 7/17 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
USF2000: THOMPSON SWEEPS AS ASKEW GETS COLLECTED IN PILEUP
Race 2 was a case of “Right place, right time” for Parker Thompson. Running fourth in the early laps, he made it through a big pileup in front of him as Alex Baron, David Malukas, and Oliver Askew all crashed out together while battling for the lead.
Malukas tried an inside pass on Baron in turn 3, but the two made contact and crashed up against the inside wall on corner exit. Points leader Askew, running third at the time after both Baron and Malukas passed him in the opening laps, was left with nowhere to go and piled into the back of them. Malukas and Baron were out on the spot, while Askew managed to drive his wounded Tatuus USF-17 back to the pits, only for the team to find too much damage to continue. Askew was credited with 12th, with Baron and Malukas 13th and 14th.
Up front, Thompson held off Rinus van Kalmthout on the restart, while a big scramble for third place between Robert Megennis, Devin Wojcik, and Kaylen Frederick saw Frederick eventually emerge in third after making a pass on Wojcik in the final laps. Darren Keane came home fourth after a late charge, with Megennis coming home fifth as Wojcik fell back to sixth.
An elated Thompson was beside himself in victory lane after his weekend sweep. “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s passed that now and into its own new realm,” Thompson quipped.
Thompson detailed that he was confident he had the pace to challenge Baron, Malukas, and Askew, but elected to play it safe early on. “I knew I had the pace so I hung back to let things string out before I attacked,” he explained. “I saw the three of them lock up so I backed off and I had just enough of a gap to squeeze through. And after yesterday, I was really calm on the restart. I had my team owner, Michael Duncalfe, talking to me on the radio keeping me prepared, so I just got a good jump on the restart and worked to keep Rinus behind me the rest of the way.”
Van Kalmthout, meanwhile, was enveloped in a battle for second that prevented him from mounting a challenge on Thompson. However, he was happy to end the day with a strong points haul.
“Once we went green, I had a good restart and I wanted to pass Parker for the points, but Robert (Megennis) had a great restart and he was right on my gearbox,” detailed the 16-year-old Dutchman. “I had to defend, and there was some wheel-banging, and that let Parker get away. I had the speed, getting the quick lap late in the race, but I got the most points I could and that’s what’s important.”
Leaving Toronto, Askew’s once insurmountable points lead is down to 18 over van Kalmthout, while Thompson now sits third, ahead of Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming.
Indy Lights and USF2000, along with the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, are back in action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28-30.